The Freud Museum


Archaeological Metaphor 2

"Imagine that an explorer arrives in a little-known region where his interest is aroused by an expanse of ruins, with remains of walls, fragments of columns, and tablets with half-effaced and unreadable inscriptions... He may have brought picks, shovels and spades with him, and he may set the inhabitants to work with these implements. Together with them he may start upon the ruins, clear away the rubbish, and, beginning from the visible remains, uncover what is buried."
The Aetiology of Hysteria, 1896.

In this quotation Freud reveals his idea and pleasure in discovering something that has been long hidden. He sees himself as an 'explorer', and once famously described himself as a 'conquistador'.

It is interesting that Freud employs the image of cooperative physical labour to describe what he is doing in analysis - rather than simply talking to people. One of Freud's early patients famously called it the 'talking cure' - but she also called it "chimney sweeping"!

Exercise 1:
Suppose the explorer had not brought his shovel. What kind of things could he have found out about the region and its remains by simply talking to the inhabitants?

Exercise 2:
General discussion about the pleasure we have in finding something that has been hidden (eg. Hide-and-seek; peek-a-boo; jack-in-the-box etc).

Are there aspects of these games which are also a little frightening as well?

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